Things Fall Apart | Study Guide

Chinua Achebe

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Things Fall Apart | Part 1, Chapter 9 | Summary



Ekwefi bangs on Okonkwo's door in a panic. "Ezinma is dying," she wails. Okonkwo runs to Ekwefi's hut and declares that Ezinma has iba (fever).

Readers learn Ekwefi had nine children before Ezinma but all of them died. Before Ezinma was born, Ekwefi was bitter and despondent. When Ezinma reached the age of six, "love returned once more to her mother, and, with love, anxiety."

After Ekwefi's ninth child died, Okonkwo called in a medicine man, who mutilated the child's corpse and buried it in the Evil Forest. Igbo believe that such a corpse is an ogbanje. (An ogbanje is a child who, upon death, reenters its mother's body and waits to be born again.) For an ogbanje to survive childhood, its iyi-uwa (the stone that links the ogbanje and the spirit world) must be found and destroyed.

Ezinma is believed to be an ogbanje. A year ago a medicine man searched with her for her iyi-uwa and destroyed the stone.

This is the first time Ezinma has been sick since then. She takes the medicine that Okonkwo prepares and falls asleep.


In this chapter, readers see once again that Okonkwo represses his emotions because he views them as feminine. His reaction to Ezinma's sickness—running to her, collecting ingredients to make medicine, and forcing her to take it—shows that he has a compassionate side. Okonkwo has emotions, and he cares about his children.

Ekwefi's history of child death returns to haunt her as Ezinma falls ill. When Ezinma's iyi-uwa was found and destroyed a year ago, Ezinma's link to the world of ogbanjes was broken, so the girl should now remain in the world of the living. With the girl's illness, however, Ekwefi questions the validity of the previous cure.

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